Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just Apply Pressure - keeping me accountable

Based on feedback from last year, I have set a goal for myself of 90% Latin. Using more Latin has always been an underlying goal, but I wanted something I could track using data that was pertinent to me. So, a few things to bear in mind with my goal:
  1. Students asked for more daily Latin. 
  2. My first and foremost goal is to deliver Comprehensible Input (understandable messages) to my students in Latin. 
  3. I want my classroom to remain as low pressure as possible.

To this end, I'm implementing a variety of things to keep me accountable and to be transparent with students. I am a firm believer that in order to establish a classroom of respect between students and teachers, they need to see me work and know that I take my job seriously. Ergo....

Keeping Magistra Patrick Accountable


As I said, I have always tried to hold myself accountable, in various ways. I've used jobs before sporadically, surveyed students, and timed myself, but this year I really want to meet my goals and have steady and consistent feedback for my own data purposes. Before I share, I want to call out a few people for being my source and inspiration in this madness:

  1. Bryce Hedstrom - Bryce is the basis of a lot of the things I'm doing here. I have taken his hard work and edited it for my classroom. Please check out his work and blog; great stuff there!
  2. Lance Piantaggini - Lance worked with some of Bryce's things to create some of the materials I am using in Latin II. 
  3. Keith Toda - Keith is my colleague at my local school, and he brought some great ideas with him, many of which I've taken and edited for Latin II. 
  4. Bob Patrick - Both my colleague and father, he has always shared resources and materials with me and this year is no exception. Thanks to him and Keith and their knowledge from some summer, I am super excited to try some new things out! 

Technique 1: The DEA

I've posted on this before and nothing has changed. I still use this daily with my students to keep us all accountable. I find out what is important to my students and, often, I'll reference it with them. I love learning about them. 

This year, I am placing an even bigger emphasis on the hand signals and Latin time. The difference is, however, that that emphasis is being placed on me instead of the students. In doing this, the pressure gets put on me where, in my opinion, it should rightly be. 
My DEA rules posted in my room

I told my students when we went over the DEA that, if they didn't understand Latin, it was my fault. They were very hesitant to agree to this, even after the conditions of "as long as you are here and do your 50%"  were given. I explained that it isn't their job to know Latin. They are to learn Latin through Comprehensible Input, through me. We talked about this for a bit and how they could help keep me accountable using the DEA by:

  1. Using hand signals and the safety net to demonstrate understanding or a lack thereof -- Using hand signals are an easy way to catch my eye. A lot of my signals are based on American Sign Language. Additionally, see below under the job descriptions for more information on how I use hand signals in the classroom
  2. Square shoulders and eye contact -- I can usually look at a student's eyes and see whether or not they understand. I need their eyes! 
  3. Respond One and All -- A student who isn't responding either is confused or not listening. I use this to help determine whether I need to go over things again or if we need to move on. Again, see the jobs list below for more information on how this plays a role. 
By using their own DEA to make myself accountable to them, I've taken some of the pressure off them and given them the DEA in a new light.

One Change

 One change we did make was in the safety net. In the past, student have said, "non intellego" if they didn't understand. This year, we've decided to change this to "me confundis". My rationale for this change is: if it is my job to deliver understandable messages and my fault if a student doesn't understand, then it isn't that they don't understand (non intellego), but rather that I've confused them (me confundis).

Students seemed okay with, and in some cases, pleased with the change. 

Technique 2: Discipulus Illustris

I have Bryce, Lance, Keith, and Bob to thank for this. Bob and Keith brought this back from a summer session and, while nervous about it at first, I am ready to give it a go in Latin II. Bryce's website (linked above and below) provides a variety of materials in a variety of languages. Bob and Keith are already doing this in Latin I and I felt more ready and sure after watching Bob do this with his students. 

I won't go too much into the technique here, and will direct you to Bryce's great free resources, but I will say that I will be calling on a student daily to share with us some information and, via circling, the class will get to know this student and practice Latin using Comprehensible Input in a real context. 

My hope in using this technique is to foster a greater sense of community and citizenship in the classroom. For my goals, my hope is that this technique will allow us all to become more ready on a daily basis to speak Latin and feel comfortable doing so. 

P.S. - Reflection

I started this today with my IIs. My mind is, honestly, blown. Not only was this super easy to implement from a teacher perspective, but it was super easy for them. At first they were nervous, but when they saw the safety net I'd built in the presentation of the question, circling, etc. they really enjoyed it and aced it. The process I took was: interview student and circle each question asked, review all questions with the class, turn to a partner and practice, write the interview down, check your neighbour's work, review one more time as a class. I'd say it took 10 minutes, at most, and was completely worth every bit of prep I'd put in. 

Technique 3: Scripts

When I first began teaching and using CI, I used scripts all the time. I kept a key ring with index cards of classroom vocabulary colour coded by type so that I could quickly lead TPR sessions without missing a beat. I also printed a reminder of how to circle questions and put it on the back wall nestled between two posters so students wouldn't see it. Since then, I've ditched the key ring and the circling reminder, but I still use scripts to various degrees. 

Asking stories

A story I "asked" from my Latin II class last year. 
I am, admittedly, not very good at asking stories in class. I much prefer TPR or a written story or even a discussion in the target language. That being said, I will still try them on occasion and do my best with them, but I still will have a small script with me reminding me of the structures/vocab I've set for the day. I might also have students draw the story on the board for us as we tell it so that I have something visual I can quickly look at and reference when I want to circle what we've done or remind myself of the details of a story.
Chapter 2 of Magus Mirabilis in Oz

In reality, I probably do storytelling more when I want to rebuild a story or already have a picture in mind. Last year when we read Magus Mirabilis in Oz, I had students rebuild chapters through re-asking the story of them. I would draw on the board and then have a visual script I could circle from very easily.  




Movie Shorts

Movie shorts* are, by far, my most favourite way of telling stories and working with vocabulary. I love deciding which one to use, fitting vocabulary in, everything. I still write scripts for these and I probably always will. I like scripts because I like to get my scene down to the second. I like to also write notes on where students struggle, where classes stop, and where I decided to do more circling or expand a discussion. Having a script also keeps me accountable to make sure that each class gets the same content when it comes to repetitions regarding new vocabulary while still allowing me to personalise for each class. 

* Some people use different terms to refer to the same activity. You may have heard about this using terms like movie talks, pixar shorts, or movie clips.

Technique 4: Jobs

Thanks again to Bryce Hedstrom, I have found a way to streamline my classroom and ensure I follow my own rules when it comes to Latin time. Bob shared Bryce's thoughts on jobs in the classroom with me. Admittedly, I was sceptical at first given my past experience giving out jobs, but I quickly found that he'd managed jobs the way I'd dreamed of it. So, I've spent the last week or two trying to edit and manipulate Bryce's work to fit in my own classroom. What I came up with was the following: 



The way I am implementing this in my classroom did take some prep, I won't lie. It also requires me to give up some control, but I managed to maintain a good bit of it in the prep and specifications I gave to my students:

The Physical Set Up

Supply box showing accountant and date master supplies and job description cards
flies for weather king/queen
and keeper of words

Here are the supplies I obtained/created and how we are using them:
  • Supply Box - This box contains the laminated description cards, vocab reminders, noise makers, markers, etc. Everything any student needs to complete a job. 
  • Laminated description cards - These are little laminated cards that list and describe the duties of a job. This way, I don't have to print them every time jobs change and substitutes can easily access a description without needed a whole list. Also, the accountants will use the laminated descriptions of their jobs to keep count
  • 2+ whiteboard markers - for the accountants to keep track of the words I say on their laminated paper (easily erasable) 
  • noise maker - This can be anything you want. I used to use a bell, but I've decided to change it up for the cat herder. (S)he can use the noise maker or any verbal cue from the Words Chest to gather student attention.
  • Words Chest - the list of words and cues that the keeper of words uses. 
  • Weather Vocab - for the weather king/queen to make sure the weather is written correctly
  • Calendar Magnets - for the date master to easily put the date up
  • Weather Magnets - for the weather king/queen to easily put up pictures of the weather. 
It did not take long to do this, with the exception of the date and weather magnets. Those took some time, but, again, no regrets. 

The Mental Set Up (me)

I  had to relinquish some control here. It was hard. I am still not fully on board with giving it up, but I really want to meet my goals and my students are on board, so I'm willing to give it a try. I kept control, to an extent by:

  • providing the vocabulary lists to limit vocabulary
  • providing a specific noise maker that is a noise I can stand
  • providing very detailed descriptions for students
  • limiting when the English Police, for example, can throw something at me
Similarly, however, I am kept accountable by these same things, additionally:
  • specific visual and vocal clues make sure I reach all students, keep all students engaged, and meet all student needs
  • English Police keep me in Latin. 
  • The Time Lord keeps me in Latin. 
  • Eliminating my own time wasters and distractions (gathering papers, dealing with the door, turning on and off lights) keeps me focused on the Latin

The Mental Set Up (students)

Most students were on board with this the moment I mentioned it. A few are taking some convincing. One student suggested that these jobs would keep them from being students. I pointed out the specific purpose of them and how directly related they were to the content, which changed their mind:
  • Accountants keep count of repetitions of new words, ensuring that the class understands and retains the vocabulary.
  • Prop Master keeps the content compelling to the class, allowing for more acquisition. 
  • The Actors also keep the content compelling and provide another means of Comprehensible Input.
  • The Story writer and Artist record details during class, providing more opportunity for Comprehensible Input that or the next day along with materials students can use to study at home. 
  • The English Police, Time Lord, etc. keep me focused, which will help keep them focused, and streamline class. 

Hopes and Dreams

I am implementing this today. Students are excited for their jobs, even if they didn't quite get what they wanted this go around. I am excited to spend more time in Latin.

P.S. - Day 1

I started jobs today and, so far, they are going great. Students are counting my use of words and holding me accountable for Latin time. Even after 1st period I already have ways I can improve. We are saving time by having name keepers pass out composition notebooks and the keeper of the lights was on top of getting them on and off for our presentation. So far, so great! 

The Big Picture

So... why am I doing all this? I want to connect with students, deliver understandable message, and be a good teacher. I want to reach my goals and help my students achieve theirs. 

I didn't have to do all of these, and at first, I didn't want to do all of these, but I have chosen to take this on. I hope, if not everything appeals to you, some of these do and you check them out, leave comments, or email me! The more we share, the more we communicate, the better I think :) students and teachers alike.